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Newsletter #740: The “Lessons From LEGO” Issue

{Welcome back to the Damn, I Wish I Thought of That Email Newsletter. This is text of the great issue all of our email subscribers just received. Sign yourself up using the handy form on the left.}

In its more than 50 years of history, LEGO has established itself as a maker of some of the most popular toys of all time — producing about 19 billion LEGO bricks annually. Here are a few lessons we can take from the company:

1> Support the ecosystem
2> Put it in public
3> Get everyone involved
4> Check it out: Nathan Sawaya

1> Support the ecosystem

Keep the innovation, excitement, and ecosystem surrounding your stuff healthy and flowing by getting rid of all the complex legal requirements. Rather than requiring an expensive license, LEGO encourages the folks that like to create custom accessories, parts, and kits. And in return, this active community supports the brand with fan blogs, parties, an infinite supply of specialty pieces, and even their own special language of LEGO acronyms. Instead of asking, “How can I make more money?” — try asking, “How can I help my industry?” — because the answer to the second question usually takes care of the first.

The Lesson: If you can help grow your industry — the ecosystem of fans, suppliers, partners, and press — you’ll find more opportunities to grow your business.

2> Put it in public

Building LEGO models is something people do at home, in private. To bring this in the open and show off the work of LEGO’s biggest fans, they’ve supported the creation of roving events, fan clubs, and publications. This leads to more awareness for LEGO’s latest products, lots of new ideas on how to use their stuff, and fans connecting with one another. You can bring the work of your customers into the spotlight by highlighting their creations on your website, by publishing a regular newsletter featuring their ideas, and by hosting special events that put them on stage.

The Lesson: When you help highlight the work of your customers, it indirectly shows how fantastic and useful your stuff is.

3> Get everyone involved

Regardless of the skill level or expertise required to use your stuff, give everyone a way to get involved. LEGO’s Brickworld — an event created by Adult Fans of LEGO (AFOLs) — is filled with classes, contests, and socializing opportunities for devoted LEGO enthusiasts. But it’s also an opportunity for casual fans and parents of kids who love LEGO to check out all the creations, vote on their favorites, and watch live competitions. Try expanding your audience to get everyone involved by creating forums for beginners, events for regular folks to see your work, and lots of ways for passionate folks to share ideas and opinions.

The Lesson: If you’re so focused on your core users or most vocal clients that it’s causing you to ignore the dreamers and the curious outsiders, you’re missing out on a bunch of potential fans and customers.

4> Check it out: Nathan Sawaya

Nathan Sawaya is perhaps the most famous LEGO artists in the world and his amazing creations are currently featured in the tour, The Art of the Brick. You can check out his work on his site,, or in person at the Crown Center in Kansas City, Missouri until September 7.

Check it out:

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  1. David M. Patt, CAE July 16, 2009 at 6:21 pm #

    LEGO also shifted its emphasis from selling blocks that could be used to construct anything to blocks designed to build only one, specific toy.
    It eliminated creativity, instead increasing the need to always buy more LEGOs.

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